What is Data Encryption?

What is Data Encryption?

Most people are aware of the fact that their data is vulnerable. A lot of people don’t worry about it, thinking they have nothing significant to hide or protect. However, cyber-criminals have shown a willingness to target all kinds of people in the past, from large to small. That’s why everyone needs to think about ways to protect their data. Although it isn’t an easy task, you will be glad to know that there is one method that has proven to be very effective over many years. As long as it is used properly, encryption is the single best step that you can take to protect your data. Because it is so important, you need to know a little more.

How Does Encryption Work?

Encryption is actually a pretty simple concept, although its implementation isn’t always so straightforward. The display that you see on your computer screen is based on the underlying code of the machine, which consists entirely of 1’s and 0’s. This is the most basic form of computer code and represents data in a raw form. All of those computer languages you’ve heard about are just ways of translating that raw code (referred to as “binary code”) into action.

Encryption works by taking all those 1’s and 0’s and then mixing them up thoroughly. At that point, it becomes completely incomprehensible to any computer. Even if someone were to find a way to steal the raw data, it would not do them any good. Once scrambled, binary code is nearly impossible to reassemble without a decryption key.

Why Does Encryption Work?

Encryption works well and has proven to be the best means of securing your data. This is because it works in an inherently secure way. You see, the scrambled (encrypted) data cannot be read by a computer until a password is entered. That password functions as a decryption key, allowing the machine to reconstruct everything as it should be. Because the decryption sequence is contained within the password, it is not possible for the computer to decrypt anything without that password being entered.

This is significant because many hacking methods rely on “tricking” a computer into doing what the hacker wants. For instance, there are many ways in which they can give themselves administrator privileges. The computer has the ability to do that, so it’s just a question of fabricating the right deception. With encryption, however, the computer has no ability to decrypt the code without the password. Thus, it doesn’t matter what kinds of tricks the hacker uses…they cannot force a computer to do something that it isn’t capable of doing.

How To Prevent Workarounds

Although it is usually not possible for a cyber-intruder to break through strong encryption, there are numerous ways in which they can circumvent such a barrier. The most common of these is the classic “brute force” attack, also known as a dictionary attack. This involves the use of a program that attempts to figure out a password using many random guesses. The program can learn a little bit from each failed attempt, allowing the password to be revealed gradually.

As we said, this is an older method, and that’s why it isn’t all that hard to defeat. A long, strong password can make it completely impractical (if not impossible) for your passwords to be hacked in this way. We mean 19-20 characters, upper and lowercase letters, at least one symbol, and at least a couple of numbers.

It is also helpful to invent “nonsense” words that no one but yourself would recognize. A person cannot make an educated guess without some frame of reference. During World War 2, the Navajo language was used as a code by the U.S. military under this same kind of reasoning. It proved to be a very effective code because it wasn’t a code at all. It was just a language with which the Axis powers were not familiar and which was rarely spoken outside of its’ native area. By this same reasoning, we can say that the hardest words to guess are the ones that aren’t even real words at all.

The other method by which a cyber-criminal can circumvent your encryptions is by tricking you into giving them the password. Phishing emails are definitely the most common tool for this purpose. Basically, they trick you into visiting a certain page that they have created, using an appealing link as bait. The page will likely be made to impersonate something legitimate, although small details can often give the game away.

These “spoofed” pages will have something called a keylogger incorporated into their code. This will detect and record all keystrokes made by users on that page. Thus, all they have to do is trick you into entering those login credentials. Once it has been typed on the screen, it is captured. The best way to prevent this type of hacking (commonly known as “social engineering” hacking) is to be careful where you click. You should never follow a link and then enter login credentials unless you can confirm the source to be legitimate. In many cases, a strange URL in the address bar will give away a fake page. For instance, if the page claims to be from your bank, navigate to that page in a separate window (without clicking the suspect link) and see if the URLs match.

Conclusion

Data encryption has been around for quite some time, but it shows no signs of going anywhere. In fact, its use has been greatly expanded in recent years. Some cyber-criminals have even found a way to use encryption as a weapon, using ransomware to lock you out of your system until a ransom is paid. Thankfully, managed cloud backup can effectively deal with that problem. If you need small business computer support services or computer IT services in general, you can call PCH Technologies at (856) 754-7500.